Some Thoughts On The Affordable Care Law Ruling

June 28, 2012

(Note: I am loathe to use the wingnut shorthand of “Obamacare,” which, I believe, belongs to Newsmax, Drudge, the Murdoch Street Journal, The Daily Tucker, NRO, and the other usual suspects, but NEVER on a lefty blog or a site that has anything whatsoever to do with the Democratic Party.)

I just have some random observations here and not much of anything else.

To begin, I have to admit that I expected the individual mandate to be struck down and the health care law to be basically maimed. The fact that it has been strengthened by The High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR (and with JR himself casting the deciding vote) is a cosmic wonder to yours truly (oh, and please explain to me again how Justice Anthony Kennedy is supposedly a moderate, since he basically wanted to can the entire law, as noted here?).

However, something we need to remind ourselves (lost amidst all of the propaganda on this issue) is the fact that the Affordable Care Act is basically the product of a conservative think tank and a Republican former governor of Massachusetts (one Willard Mitt Romney, who of course is running away from that shocking stroke of common sense with all speed). It was borne from the fact that health care costs continue to rise for U.S. businesses and hurt competitiveness (to say nothing of the misery faced by the uninsured), and the Act, fully implemented, would make use of health care exchanges set up by the states with federal funds, with said exchanges being composed of private insurers offering competitive coverage at what should be affordable rates because of competition in that market for real at long last (really, when you think about it, this was a win-win for Roberts…he guts the individual mandate and the wingnuts love him, but he rules as he did today and helps businesses anyway while doing the right thing for a change).

So, when you hear about Eric Cantor and the rest of his foul ilk saying that they will try once again to repeal it, as noted here (which they can’t do for the moment anyway, as noted here), try to imagine the horrific real-world impact of that action. And while you consider that, realize once more why it’s important to make sure the Democrats hold the Senate in November and President Obama is re-elected (if, God help us, the Repugs take over the entire federal government, this bit of good news won’t mean anything since they’ll abolish the Affordable Care Law once and for all – of course, electing Democrats in the House and re-installing a “D” trifecta among the executive and both legislative branches will enshrine the law even further).

Oh, and speaking of the elections, I have a message for Kathy Boockvar (running against Mikey the Beloved, who has also pledged to repeal the law) and every other Democrat seeking federal office:

Forget the polls saying “well, gee, a majority of the U.S. opposes the law, but they favor the provisions.” To me, the only way that cockeyed explanation makes sense is when you consider how our corporate media has completely and utterly FAILED to educate and inform its viewers and readers on this issue (here). It looks like, then, it’s up to Democratic politicians and filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly to try and right that egregious wrong.

For now, though, we have a cause for celebration, as well as a huge sigh of relief.

Update 6/29/12: Nail. Hammer. Head.

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The Inky Gives Us More “News For The One Percent”

June 27, 2012


Aww, looks like the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch haz a sad (here)…

Why do the rich fear Barack Obama?

John Coyne and his team at Brinker Capital Inc., which invests $12 billion for financially successful Americans from its King of Prussia offices, last month asked financial advisers who refer clients from across the United States to name their “biggest election fear” for the November presidential vote.

“Four more years of an Obama administration” was the choice for 70 percent of the 442 who answered. “A divided Congress” trailed at 18 percent; a Mitt Romney win or “growing Tea Party influence” were judged least scary, given the alternatives.

“The anxiety is around taxes,” Coyne, Brinker’s chief executive, told me. “Their concern is that a Democratic administration is going to try to bail out the deficit on the backs of the high-net-worth, mass-affluent market.

“It’s really becoming visceral,” he added, noting that the fear-Obama choice was up from 56 percent at year-end 2011. “The fear is that the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire.”

And HEAVEN FORBID that we allow that to happen, right? After all, as noted here (from a year ago)…

Ten years ago today, the first round of Bush tax cuts became law. But what if they hadn’t? What would our fiscal situation look like if history had been different in just one respect: if we’d never implemented President George W. Bush’s eponymous tax policies? The short answer is that the debate over federal debt levels would be entirely different. In that alternate world, total debt as a share of GDP would be under 50 percent this year—instead of pushing 70 percent—and it would be expected to stay under 60 percent for the rest of the decade…That’s well below the levels causing such great consternation in Washington.

Bear in mind that President Bush inherited perhaps the strongest federal balance sheet in postwar history. There were record-high surpluses, debt was at around 30 percent of GDP and falling, and the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would be debt free by 2009. The country was in great fiscal shape to deal with any crises or emergencies coming down the road, and it was even ready to deal with the coming retirement of the baby boom generation.

But rather than follow President Bill Clinton’s successful lead, President Bush handed out gigantic tax cuts, with people at the top of the income ladder getting the biggest breaks. Those “supply-side” tax cuts were a complete failure as economic policy, and now, instead of being debt free and well prepared to care for an aging population, our debt-to-GDP ratio is almost 70 percent. If those tax cuts are extended—instead of being allowed to expire on schedule at the end of 2012—it will approach 100 percent by 2021.

On top of that, as noted here, that Kenyan Muslim socialist pre-zee-dint of ours has presided over a decrease in tax revenue as opposed to a spending binge, at least one relative to his foul predecessor (yes, I’ll let someone fetch the smelling salts so you can be revived, since you, dear reader, might have fainted upon hearing that).

And as former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett (quoted in the Daily Kos post) tells us here (and wow, has he seen the proverbial light, or what?)…

In January 2001, the office projected that the federal government would run a total budget surplus of $3.5 trillion through 2008 if policy was unchanged and the economy continued according to forecast. In fact, there was a deficit of $5.5 trillion.

The projected surplus was primarily the result of two factors. First was a big tax increase in 1993 that every Republican in Congress voted against, saying that it would tank the economy. This belief was wrong. The economy boomed in 1994, growing 4.1 percent that year and strongly throughout the Clinton administration.

The second major contributor to budget surpluses that emerged in 1998 was tough budget controls that were part of the 1990 and 1993 budget deals. The main one was a requirement that spending could not be increased or taxes cut unless offset by spending cuts or tax increases. This was known as Paygo, for pay as you go.

During the 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush warned that budget surpluses were dangerous because Congress might spend them, even though Paygo rules prevented this from happening. His Feb. 28, 2001, budget message reiterated this point and asserted that future surpluses were likely to be even larger than projected due principally to anticipated strong revenue growth.

This was the primary justification for a big tax cut. Subsequently, as it became clear that the economy was slowing – a recession began in March 2001 – that became a further justification.

The 2001 tax cut did nothing to stimulate the economy, yet Republicans pushed for additional tax cuts in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The economy continued to languish even as the Treasury hemorrhaged revenue, which fell to 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008 from 20.6 percent in 2000. Republicans abolished Paygo in 2002, and spending rose to 20.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 from 18.2 percent in 2001.

On top of that, the Inky also tells us the following from here

America’s so-called fiscal cliff is making it hard for investors to plan ahead.

The fiscal cliff is the paradox that Congress and the White House now face: If they pass measures to slice the country’s massive budget deficit — potentially raising taxes and cutting spending — the very austerity measures helping to reduce a government budget crisis could ultimately plunge us into another recession.

What’s an investor to do in a portfolio?

The fiscal cliff is prompting consternation among financial planners, some of whom warn their retirement-age clients to avoid the stock market. “The U.S. is where Greece was four years ago,” opines Dan White, a financial planner in Glen Mills, founder of Dan White & Associates L.L.C.

Far be it for me to tell Mr. White how to run his business, but in the matter of the U.S. supposedly turning into Greece, I believe the following should be noted from here.

The one good thing I can say about this is that the Inky has at least taken a break from acting as Governor Bully’s PR Service (for now anyway), as noted here (and speaking of the intersection between our beloved commonwealth and the national political scene, it’s nice that this bit of sludge has received some play from our “news” networks with initials for names – more testimony yet to the utterly manufactured “scandal” of “voter fraud”).


Thursday Mashup (6/14/12)

June 15, 2012
  • So the Federal Election Commission is going after Former Senator “Wide Stance,” huh (here).

    Here is my question: why not the Department of Justice?

    As TPM tells us…

    The case stems from the Idaho Republican’s embarrassing 2007 arrest by an undercover cop in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom stall. The cop said Craig made sexual advances toward him by tapping his feet under the stall divider.

    The senator quietly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct three months later. But after his case hit the media, Craig reversed himself and hired a team of attorneys to get his guilty plea thrown out.

    On Monday, the FEC alleged that Craig used campaign donations from supporters as his own personal piggy bank to try to reverse his plea. The commission said he paid $139,952 to the Washington, D.C. law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and another $77,032 to the Minneapolis firm of Kelly & Jacobson.

    “These legal costs were not made in connection with his campaign for federal office or for any ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in his connection with his duties as Senator,” FEC lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

    Sooo…Craig will not have to undergo the criminal prosecution meted out to another disgraced former Senator?

    Craig won’t be called “a cheating, lying, disgraceful, husband…and human being,” as a certain ex-North Carolina senator was here?

    Why not? Is it because John Edwards was accused of squirreling away $1 million in campaign funds for Rielle Hunter and the baby he fathered with her, and Craig is accused of using only about $200,000 of his campaign funds for his self defense?

    Really, do the dollar amounts matter? If that’s all that determines whether or not someone rich and powerful is prosecuted in this country for alleged illegality, then we’re worse off than I thought.

    No, this just confirms that the John Edwards trial had very little to do with matters of law. However, it had everything to do with trying to create salacious headlines and “news” tidbits about a photogenic individual guilty of admittedly seamy conduct in an attempt to manufacture a guilty verdict that lawyers for the Department of Justice, due to lack of evidence or incompetence, could not actually win on their own. And I’d really like to hear someone try to explain why Larry Craig should not be prosecuted in a similar manner (maybe because Craig looks like your granddad after too many highballs and the notion of sex with men in bathrooms is too icky for Eric Holder, and he’d like to keep it out of the headlines any way possible?).

    God Bless America.

  • Also, this item is a bit “off the beaten track” for me, but I feel like I should respond anyway (never stopped me before :-))…

    Making good on its threat, the new leadership of the Philly Pops filed a motion Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking to end the organization’s relationship with Peter Nero, its music director of 33 years.

    Nero’s contract, the Pops said in its filing, is “simply too economically burdensome.” The Pops “can no longer afford to compensate Nero at the levels provided for in the employment agreement while simultaneously hoping to continue its existence in the future.”

    The Pops has begun the search for a replacement for Nero for the 2012-13 season – even as tickets have already been sold for concerts billed as being led by Nero – and will import guest conductors for lower fees, the filing states. The motion requests an expedited hearing in court, with a rejection of the contract by June 30.

    Nero is fighting the move.

    “We don’t think it’s Peter that needs to go, but the board that needs to go,” said Nero’s lawyer, Albert A. Ciardi 3d. Ciardi said he had only briefly looked at the motion, but was preparing a strategy that would keep “Nero performing with the Pops. We don’t believe they have a very good business justification for doing this.

    “Peter is the Pops, and the Pops is Peter.”

    If successful, the rejection would end an institutional personification that has been Philadelphia’s answer to other rarefied pops partnerships such as Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops and Erich Kunzel’s Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Nero has characterized the move as a “takeover attempt” of the ensemble he has led since its founding in 1979 by impresario Moe Septee.

    The move to oust Nero, 78, comes after an unsuccessful attempt to renegotiate his contract in the middle of its term. The Pops has sought to impose a 40 percent pay cut on Nero, whose most recent annual compensation was $513,000, according to Frank Giordano, the Pops’ president and chief executive. Nero has disputed that figure, saying it included office space, storage, transportation, and other expenses related to his job as both conductor and the artistic chief.

    The effort is being led by Giordano, who started as a volunteer before beginning to pay himself a $1,000-per-week salary in January.

    How noble on Giordano’s part, until you read the following later in the story…

    One solution, which (Walter D. Cohen, chairman of the board overseeing Philly Pops) said he argued for at the board meeting, would be delaying the hiring of a new chief operating officer to save money. Giordano has prepared a budget for next season that calls for hiring that additional administrator, plus raising his own salary to $91,000 a year. Cohen called that “a problem.”

    Uh, yeah – I would say that a raise for the COB of about 910 percent while this same person cries poor mouth over the compensation owed to Philly Pops’ most recognizable talent constitutes “a problem” also.

    For another point of view on this, I give you the following from here (concerning the original bankruptcy filing by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association in a story dated from May 2011…it should be noted that the Pops is in bankruptcy as a result of formerly being part of the Association)…

    The Philadelphia Orchestra is not insolvent and it is nowhere near insolvent. According to its IRS filing, it ended Fiscal 2009 with an endowment of over $129,000,000 (down from $143,580,000 the year before) and this sum is more than three times its liabilities as of the filing date of the Chapter 11 proceeding. To the extent that there is a genuine problem it is cash flow. A cash flow crunch, and a nasty desire to stick it to the musicians who make the music which is the alpha and omega of the orchestra’s reason for being is what’s motivating this bankruptcy filing…

    The 700 pound gorilla in the room is the Orchestra Association’s obligation to the musician’s pension fund. This was an obligation it negotiated and now wishes to go back on. In common parlance (and at the risk of insulting Bryn Terfel) it wishes to welch on its debt. The orchestra argues “this is worse than it appears.” And indeed it is, but not in the way the orchestra claims.

    Management no longer wishes to have any part of the agreement it solemnly entered into. The pension obligation is roughly $3,000,000 per year, and if it withdraws from its obligation it is contractually committed to make a one-time $25,000,000 payment to the pension fund. The Orchestra Association argues on the one hand that by welching on this and other debts it can save $40,000,000 over five years. This is fascinating in that management’s last audited financial statement estimated pension costs over the next five years at $16,340,000. It is little wonder that the musicians’ union does not believe the Philadelphia Orchestra Association’s numbers since they are simply made up.

    Worse, years ago the Orchestra Association went to the musicians and in effect said “Look, we have a cash crunch. Please allow us to issue an IOU to the pension fund instead of cutting a check.” The union agreed and a series of memoranda of understanding were entered into, creating an unfunded pension liability. That accrued pension liability, which was $18,984,000 at the end of FY 2009, was $22,895,000 at the end of FY 2010 according to the Orchestra Association’s audited statement. So if I am reading this right, the orchestra is in the hole to the pension fund to the tune of $22,895,000 as of the end of FY 2010 and, if it opts out of the agreement, it owes another $25,000,000 on top of that (instead of $3,000,000 or so per year going forward). It is this debt that the Orchestra Association wants the Bankruptcy Court to say may be skipped out on. In fact, it was the short-sighted, greedy decision by the Orchestra Association to try to avoid this debt that motivated the bankruptcy filing. The musicians bailed the Orchestra Association out by accepting $22,895,000 in IOUs instead of cash on the barrel-head and this is the thanks it gets. Sort of restores your faith in human gratitude, doesn’t it Mr. Scrooge?

    The lesson for any group covered by a pension plan when the non-sovereign employer (that is, an employer not possessed of the power to lay and collect taxes) says “We need to create an unfunded liability due to our cash situation” is “Absolutely not unless you bond the obligation.” One assumes that the musicians’ union will know for next time.

    Of course, throughout all of this the orchestra members have done 100% of what they were contractually obligated to do: Play music to the best of their estimable, world-class abilities. The Orchestra Association had 100% of their effort and 100% of their skill, on time and in the manner required. The Orchestra Association responded to this by providing zero good faith and zero professional competence.

    Oh, and by the way, it looks like the Orchestra Association also exceeded its limits on “fees and expenses for public relations during the past 15 months as it worked its way through the Chapter 11 process,” as Peter Dobrin of the Inquirer reports here (in addition to his coverage on the Peter Nero story).

    And who was one of the beneficiaries when the limits were exceeded?


    Brian Communications, that’s who (a PR company founded by the former head of the Inquirer and Daily News, which is expected to be paid $780,000 through the end of the bankruptcy process, according to a forecast provided to The Inquirer).

    Sooo…$780,000 in PR for Tierney is OK, but $513,000 for a world renowned talent like Peter Nero is a problem.

    Tell you what – how about if they take some of Tierney’s dough, use it to “comp” Nero the amount the Board doesn’t want to pay, and if Tierney still wants the money he’s owed, he can earn it cleaning the mouthpieces of the woodwinds and the brass instruments, and maybe tidying up in the orchestra pit at the Kimmel too.

  • Finally, turning to our backyard, I haven’t said anything about the PA State House race in the 31st district between incumbent Dem Steve Santarsiero and Repug challenger Anne Chapman, so please allow me to do so here.

    As noted in this story from a couple of months ago…

    “I believe that my campaign message resonated with the voters who are tired of the burdensome taxes, the waste in government and the piling up our debt,” Chapman said in an interview with BucksLocalNews.com.

    Spoken like a card-carrying member of the bunch that ran up the debt in the first place – continuing…

    She lauded her campaign manager Rob Ciervo, a Newtown Township supervisor, for his continued hard work on her behalf during the primary election cycle. She also thanked her donors and the voters who came to the polls and gave their support.

    And for a reminder about “Self” Ciervo, I give you this

    Chapman, a described life-long conservative, entered the race to promote and enact job growing intiatives (sic), reform to save tax dollars and end property taxes. She said that her ideas are met with concrete solutions.

    She said House bills such as the Property Tax Independence Act will eliminate pesky property taxes by providing a “more equitable tax that would be fair to all and based on ability to pay.”

    “The act would fund our schools by an increase in the sales and usage tax of one percent on non-essential items and a less than one percent increase in state income tax, which would fund our schools in a revenue-neutral way and adjust for changes in pupil enrollment,” she explained.

    To her knowledge, she said the act would share the responsibility for funding schools with residents and out-of-staters who visit and use products and services in Pennsylvania.

    Really? As noted in a recent Santarsiero mailer (can’t find an online link yet)…

    The proposal (HB 1776) would raise the personal income tax by 0.94%. So, as an example, for a family with a household income of $100,000, state income taxes would rise by $940.

    Under the bill, the state sales tax would increase from 6% to 7%. Even worse, the bill would expand the sales tax to include many goods and services that are not currently taxed. For example, clothing over $50 would now be taxed at 7%. Moreover, all food and beverages other than some meats, milk, cheese, eggs, produce and certain cereals would be taxed at 7%.

    (Also), individuals and families would have to pay a tax on most legal, accounting, architectural and even parking services, while corporations would be exempt from doing so.

    Despite its authors’ claims, HB 1776 does not eliminate property taxes. Property taxes would still exist for county and municipal services. They also would remain to pay for school debt. The bottom line is that about 30% of your property taxes would remain, in addition to the new taxes listed here.

    And speaking of that, here are items that would be taxed at 7% under HB 1776:

  • Non-prescription medicines
  • Most toiletries
  • Newspapers and Bibles
  • Textbooks (another burden for our students)
  • Candy and gum
  • Services rendered in the construction industry, including home repair and remodeling (which would undoubtedly hurt our already-ailing housing market)
  • Flags of the USA and Pennsylvania (presumably you could buy a flag of a foreign country without paying a tax)
  • Caskets, burial vaults and grave markers/tombstones (a new twist on the “death tax”)
  • And here are services and activities that would be taxed at 7% under HB 1776:

  • Barber/hair styling (what, no tanning beds or yachts, Repugs?)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Pet grooming
  • Veterinary services
  • Sporting events (Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, Sixers, etc.)
  • Golf, tennis, bowling, skiing, fitness, facilities, etc.
  • Theatre, movies, music, dance
  • Museums, parks, zoos, historical sites
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Psychologists services
  • Chiropractors
  • Air and ground transportation
  • Television
  • Waste disposal
  • But wait, there’s more!

    One of the big reasons why our property taxes are high right now is because the state does not adequately fund its share of costs for school districts like Pennsbury and Council Rock (despite a constitutional mandate to do so). To fix that problem, we need to change the formula by which state funding is given to school districts so that we get our fair share.

    Unfortunately, HB 1776 would give the sole authority to decide educational funding to Harrisburg.

    Hey, Simon Campbell and his minions in charge of the Pennsbury School Board may be nuts, but at least they’re our nuts, people!

    If state revenue for all the new taxes mentioned above falls because of a downturn in the economy, our schools will get shortchanged even more than they do already. How does HB 1776 propose to address that problem? It lets school districts impose a new, local Personal Income Tax (on top of any existing local Earned Income Tax and the state Personal Income Tax).

    Under HB 1776, most residents of the Newtown-Yardley area will pay more in taxes. At the same time, we would lose local control over our school boards and the quality of our schools. That is not a good bargain.

    Oh, but Anne Chapman and Rob Ciervo like HB 1776. What could go wrong?

    Only everything.

    Please click here to support Steve for another term, so sanity will prevail in PA-31 for the foreseeable future.


  • Another Repug “Fast And Furious” Misfire

    June 8, 2012


    As noted here

    Attorney General Eric Holder is clashing with congressional Republicans seeking more information about a flawed gun-trafficking investigation in Arizona.

    Lawmakers at a House Judiciary Committee hearing asked Holder what he knew in advance of public disclosure of a so-called gun-walking tactic in early 2011. As part of Operation Fast and Furious, agents were told to forego immediate arrests of suspected straw purchasers of guns and instead try to track the guns to higher-ups in gun-smuggling rings.

    Agents lost track of hundreds of guns which flowed south to Mexico, where many were recovered at crime scenes. Two such guns were found in the U.S. at the scene of the killing of border agent Brian Terry.

    Holder says he became aware of the gun-walking tactic at the same time as the public.

    I know it’s really difficult for the wingnuts to accept this, but could it be that Holder is actually telling the truth here? And that there actually isn’t some kind of godawful conspiracy to indiscriminately arm Mexicans so they can cross back over the border and kill us?

    Particularly since, as noted here (from here)…

    A high-ranking Justice Department official was “stunned” when he learned in 2010 that agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowed weapons to “walk” across the Mexican border during the Bush administration, according to recently disclosed documents.

    Documents show that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a career federal prosecutor in a leadership position within the Obama DOJ’s Criminal Division, and other officials worked to keep the attention of the press away from the Bush-era “gun walking” tactics long before the problems with Operation Fast and Furious went public.

    “Been thinking more about ‘Wide Receiver I’,” Weinstein wrote in an email on April 12, 2010. “ATF HQ [headquarters] should/will be embarrassed that they let this many guys walk — I’m stunned, based on what we’ve had to do to make sure not even a single operable weapon walked in [undercover] operations I’ve been involved in planning — and there will be press about that.”

    And it turns out that “Wide Receiver” took place from 2006 until the end of 2007 according to TPM. And by the way, Media Matters also tells us that the ATF was trying to track down the “walked” guns in “Fast and Furious” before border agent Terry was tragically killed by at least one of those weapons.

    If Issa and his pals really want to assign blame for this admitted ATF failure, then maybe they should take a look in the mirror; as noted here, Congress has been playing games with funding the ATF for years. And as noted here, President Obama received praise from Mayors Against Illegal Guns two years ago for increasing ATF funding.

    I should probably encourage Issa to knock off this nonsense, and I do, but the only good thing is that, while these phony-baloney hearings of his are going on (and once more, thanks to all you numbskull voters out there who returned the U.S. House Repugs to power two years ago and enabled this crap), at least he can’t do any more damage to the economy, which he already has done and would do even more based on this.


    Wednesday Mashup (6/6/12)

    June 7, 2012

  • Yep, if there’s someone who knows about despotic leaders generating something akin to a cult following (in this case, a certain deceased head of al Qaeda killed at the order of Number 44), it’s Dana Rohrabacher.

    And by the way, I’m hardly a fan of the Chinese. And sure, go ahead and try to kill the clean energy sector of our economy, something else that actually generates revenue besides, you know, junk food, Walmart and Fox “News” (anybody besides me see a thread there?).

  • Next, as I live and breathe, it looks like Bucks County, PAs senior law enforcement official poked his head out of his proverbial hole and, not unlike a celebrated rodent in our beloved commonwealth, cast a blind eye towards at least six more weeks of malfeasance (theater of the mind here, people).

    For, as noted here

    A two-year investigation of voter fraud during Bucks County’s last congressional contest is unlikely to result in criminal charges, District Attorney Dave Heckler said Tuesday.

    Only a handful of interviews remain in the case, which centers around absentee ballots submitted during the November 2010 general election.

    County board of elections employees rejected almost 900 ballot applications during the match between then-incumbent Congressman Patrick Murphy and the successful challenger Mike Fitzpatrick.

    County investigators have determined that indeed “there were ballots with fraudulent signatures on them,” said Heckler. But there’s little evidence of a conspiracy by a political campaign, he added.

    Republicans had called into question a get-out-the-vote effort organized by state Democrats on Murphy’s behalf. They claimed Bucks residents were pressured into applying for absentee ballots they did not want or signing applications for family members.

    Democrats, including Murphy, denied any wrongdoing.

    Don’t you love it? A bunch of baseless aspersions cast at Democrats for alleged fraud, even though nothing was ever proved.

    And get a load of this in particular…

    “Certainly, there was some criminality at a low level of people, and that was mostly what the board of elections had suspected,” said Heckler. “The part that is still an open question in my mind is whether there was some instruction and design here, or whether these were just some people out there roaming the countryside…”


    I give you Night of the Living Democrats, according to Heckler (I’ll grant that the whole “PA Voter Assistance Office” bit from the Murphy campaign was a bit of a ham-handed attempt to coordinate votes, but the goal was to make sure every voted was counted, and no illegality took place).

    Also in response, as noted here (from a prior post by yours truly just before the 2010 election – second bullet)…

    In a news release, Murphy’s campaign said the board of elections remedied errors on Republican ballot applications but not those of Democrats.

    As evidence, the Democrats provided a copy of an absentee ballot application submitted by a Republican woman from Bensalem who used her married name, although she is registered under her maiden name, and failed to include her date of birth. Board of elections workers added the woman’s maiden name and approved the application.

    In contrast, the Democrats provided copies of applications submitted by Democrats from Levittown and Fairless Hills who put incorrect dates in the field for date of birth.

    The Democrats “didn’t get the same special treatment,” as the Republican voter, the news release says.

    (Board of Elections Director Deena Dean) said the campaign staff’s allegations are absolutely false.

    “No one has been tampering with any ballots and I’m offended by that,” Dean said.

    Dean explained that a ballot application with a woman’s maiden name is permissible. A voter who has married and changed his or her name but has not updated his or her voter registration may sign an affidavit at the poll. Dean did not explain why the application was approved without a date of birth.

    Of course she didn’t, because she didn’t want to admit that then-head of the Bucks County Commissioners Jim Cawley and Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin told her to do that (no, I don’t have proof of that charge, but if something wasn’t afoot, why did Bucks County Republican Committee Vice Chairwoman Pat Poprik drop her challenge to the absentee ballot applications?).

    Besides, Heckler (to no one’s surprise) utterly failed to note anything whatsoever about the so-called “Ciervo/Fitzpatrick Letter,” in which then-Repug State House candidate Rob Ciervo and now-U.S. House Rep. Mikey The Beloved told Bucks County voters (on Ciervo’s letterhead)…

    …“Mike Fitzpatrick and I need your help” and instructing voters as follows concerning their absentee ballot applications: “If the application is for a student who will be away in November, be sure to use their college address to ensure they receive the ballot in a timely manner.” This, then, introduces the possibility that the college address, as opposed to the actual voting residence address, could be entered onto the ballot application.

    So the application is filled out with the college address, sent to the Bucks County Board of Elections…and then it is tossed because it doesn’t match the address to which the absentee ballot application was originally sent.

    Welcome To Voter Caging 101, ladies and gentlemen. Your instructors are Dr. Ciervo, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Cawley and Mr. Martin.

    I suppose this is about what you would expect from Heckler, someone whose career in criminal justice has trended decidedly backward (though his career as a craven Republican Party hack is in full flower).

  • Finally, please allow me to delve into the world of sports for a moment.

    The Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils are scheduled to play Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, with Los Angeles leading three games to none (this would have been a history making final anyway since this is the lowest that the final teams had both been seeded; the Devils were a Number 6 seed in their conference and the Kings were the Number 8 seed in theirs – I seem to recall Pittsburgh beat Minnesota about 20 years ago when the former North Stars were a low seed, but Pittsburgh and Mario Lemieux were seeded near the top).

    Basically, though I respect the Devils, I’m tired of seeing them win championships (and that’s not just sour grapes because they beat the Flyers). I think it’s great that the Kings are so close, and I sincerely hope they get it done.

    And for no small reason, I hope that happens because of this guy.

    When the Flyers traded Jeff Carter last year to basically clear salary to weight themselves down with stones to for eight years sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, I was a bit upset, since Carter is a great “finisher.” Still, I think they did well to get forward Jakub Voracek, and center Sean Couturier, who they ended up drafting with the pick they got for Carter, looks like a “keeper.”

    However, I think trading Mike Richards was utterly a mistake, even though I think Brayden Schenn has a big “upside” also, and as far as I’m concerned, you can make the case that, if Claude Giroux doesn’t end up as team captain, I’d give the “C” to Wayne Simmonds, the other player acquired in the Richards trade.

    But let’s just point out one example where the team missed Richards this year – do you honestly think that, with Richards in the lineup, they would have lost every single game they played against the New York Rangers? Don’t you think that, in at least one of those games, he would have managed to score a shorthanded goal or make a play that would have made the difference?

    The Flyers gambled that defenseman Chris Pronger would remain healthy for the whole year and give them the grit and leadership they would need without Richards. And that’s a gamble they lost, and who knows whether Pronger will ever be back.

    Oh, but if you listen to the sports radio loudmouths in this town, their attitude for the most part is “well, Richards didn’t have a good year last year, and he was surly, and they ended up not missing his goal scoring – the Flyers main problem last year was defense.”

    The last point is a valid one (and seriously, people, do they really need Jaromir Jagr for another year?). But as far as I’m concerned, the rest of it is just sour grapes from our local sports media because Mike Richards wouldn’t kiss their ass.

    Oh, but Richards partied too much off the ice with Carter. Here is my response – did that affect Richards’ play on the ice (Carter can fend for himself)?

    I suppose I’m in the minority a bit when it comes to defending Richards, but as far as I’m concerned, all of the partying stuff is something that a guy his age will eventually grow out of (maybe he already has). I just know that Richards played with busted shoulders and various other broken body parts, usually shadowing some of the best players on the other team such as Boston’s Zdeno Chara. And that’s what I remember, and that’s why I hope he ends up drinking from Lord Stanley’s bowl.

    Besides, if the Flyers had signed a quality goalie like Antti Niemi two years ago (who was then a free agent after being cut loose by the Chicago Blackhawks, a team for which he helped win a Cup against the Flyers), they wouldn’t have had to move both Richards and Carter to sign the “Russian Tragedy” anyway.

    (Oh well, looks like the Kings will play for another day.)


  • Some End-of-May Mikey Musings

    June 1, 2012


    The Bucks County Courier Times featured some actual, honest-to-goodness reporting here from Mikey the Beloved’s designated scribe Gary Weckselblatt (someone fetch the smelling salts – I may faint)…

    Back in March, following a fundraiser at a Florida resort, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick introduced legislation to eliminate the cap on the number of reverse mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

    Donations from reverse mortgage brokers proceeded to flow to the 8th District Republican.

    Earlier this month, as Roll Call reported Wednesday, Fitzpatrick introduced several bills to suspend tariffs on chemicals to help a local business. The online publication that covers Capitol Hill said eight of the 12 proposals would benefit United Color Manufacturing Inc., a Newtown company whose owners have donated $26,000 to Fitzpatrick in the last decade.

    The story caught the eye of Public Campaign Action Fund, which is in favor of publicly financed elections and campaigns to hold elected officials accountable for opposing reform and for the special favors they do for their political contributors.

    “Voters send people to Congress because they think they’ll do what’s in their best interests,” said Adam Smith, spokesman for the watchdog organization. “Then you see legislation like this introduced and it raises real questions about who these members are working for in Washington.”

    In the matter of reverse mortgages, the following should be noted from here

    The formula used to determine how much equity you can take out of your home in a Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, reverse mortgage is based on home value, a value cap that varies regionally, the interest rate and the borrower’s age. Under typical conditions, the average reverse mortgage represents roughly 50 percent of a home’s value. In some circumstances the loan costs can eat a substantial percentage of the loan.

    The joint concepts of equity ratios and appreciation are the foundation supporting reverse mortgages. When you first take out the loan, you will be given about half the equity in the home and the property retains the other half. Then, as time goes by, the house appreciates, producing more equity still. The annualized historic home appreciation rate is 8.6 percent, which would result in a doubling of home value roughly every 12 years. Between the initial equity and likelihood of future appreciation, buffered by insurance provided by the FHA, banks are confident that they can recapture the loan balance upon sale of the house. The banks, however, have no interest or concern in what equity remains after the loan is repaid. If home appreciation does not match the historical rate, as it most certainly has not during the period from 2007 to 2010, banks will still be repaid by a combination of the house sale and the FHA insurance. In these instances, however, there will be no equity remaining in the estate. The building might be left to a son or daughter, but it would be worthless to them.

    As to suspending the tariffs on chemicals, that primarily benefitted a guy named Tom Nowakowski who, in addition to giving Mikey $26 grand, gave $150,000 to the Repugs over the last six years, as noted here.

    So what does he have to say? As the Courier Times tells us…

    He said he approached Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, both in 2009 and again this year about the (tariff) issue. He has not donated to Casey, who introduced legislation similar to Fitzpatrick’s.

    And of course, Nowakowski doesn’t see what the fuss is about. And yes, it is all legal (and he didn’t even have to donate to Sideshow Bob to get our senator to help him out – “free” is the best return on investment you can get).

    And get a load of how our U.S. House rep responded…

    Fitzpatrick’s campaign refused to comment on the issue without a response from his opponent Kathy Boockvar, who was unavailable.

    Ummm…does Mikey seriously expect Kathy Boockvar to be available for a public comment every time he screws up?

    No guts, no glory, Mikey.

    Because, as far as I’m concerned, this still doesn’t pass the smell test, particularly when, as noted here, Mikey criticized former rep Patrick Murphy two years ago for accepting $19,000 from Dem U.S. House Rep Charles Rangel, who was under a congressional investigation and was later censured. Despite that, Mikey had no issue with pocketing $20,000 from fellow House Repug Spencer Bachus, who was also under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

    Oh, and as long as I’m talking about our PA-08 U.S. House rep, I’d like to point out that Fitzpatrick forwarded an Email to Le Manse Doomsy yesterday in which he asked your humble narrator to go to Mikey’s Facebook page to tell everyone how we feel about Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin’s decision to take his U.S. fortune and become an “expat” (the Repugs’ non-jobs agenda drags on – you can go here to speak out elsewhere if you wish).

    If you’re as tired of Mikey’s antics as I am, click here to do something about it.


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